Tuesday, December 5, 2017

No Need for Forgiveness -a bittersweet story about a soldier's death

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Yehuda Lave, Spiritual Advisor and Counselor

Grow From Your Daily Routine

Character is developed one positive action at a time. Therefore nothing is actually trivial in our lives. To grow in character development, pay attention to seemingly trivial matters. Someone who grows from each minor life event will eventually reach high levels of character perfection.

Today, think about one character trait that you can develop further by paying close attention to a seemingly trivial aspect of your daily routine.

Love Yehuda Lave

Who & Why Are We? Perhaps the Greatest Secret of All (98 secs)

Mexico creates huge national park to protect marine life

e Mexican government has created a large marine reserve around a group of islands home to hundreds of species including rays, whales and sea turtles.

The Revillagigedo Archipelago is a group of volcanic islands off the country's south-west coast.

With a protection zone of 57,000 square miles (150,000km), it has become the largest ocean reserve in North America.

The move will mean all fishing activity will be banned, and the area will be patrolled by the navy.

It is hoped the move will help populations hit by commercial fishing operations in the area recover.

The park was designated by a decree signed by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. It will also forbid natural resources being extracted from the land or the building of new hotel infrastructure.

The area, which is about 250 miles (400km) south-west of the country's Baja California peninsula has been described as the Galapagos of North America, because of its volcanic nature and unique ecology.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The archipelago consists of San Benedicto, Socorro, Roca Partida and Clarion volcanic islands

Sitting on the convergence of two ocean currents, the islands are a hub for open water and migratory species.

It has hundreds of breeds of ocean wildlife, including humpback whales that use the shallow and coastal areas around the islands for breeding.

Last year the Pacific Ocean site was named as a UNESCO world heritage area.

María José Villanueva, the director of conservation of WWF in Mexico, described the move as an "important precedent" to the rest of the world, according to local media.

It follows a similar move by Chile, which created an even bigger ocean reserve in 2015.

An Arab Muslim in the Israeli Army

Did you know that many Arab Muslims serve proudly in Israel's military? Does that surprise you? Very likely, it does—but it shouldn't. Mohammad Kabiya, a Bedouin, an Arab, and a Muslim, volunteered to serve in Israel's Air Force. Why? Because Israel is his homeland, and because Israel has given him opportunities he never would have had living in the Gaza Strip or West Bank—or in any of the other Muslim countries in the Middle East. See Mohammad's story in our new video.

Remarks by US Vice President Pence Commemorating UN Vote Establishing Israel

By Guest Author - 12 Kislev 5778 – November 30,

Queens Museum

New York, New York

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Ambassador Danon, Ambassador Lauder, Secretary Mnuchin, Minister Katz, ambassadors from over 60 countries, distinguished guests, my fellow Americans, and my fellow friends of Israel.

We gather today on the eve of a historic anniversary to celebrate what happened here, in this very hall, 70 years ago when the United Nations declared to the modern world an ancient truth, that the Jewish people have a natural, irrevocable right to an independent state in their ancestral and eternal homeland. (Applause.)

And in this room they called for the creation of the Jewish State of Israel. I am deeply humbled to join you today to commemorate this vote and to celebrate the courage, the perseverance, and faith of the Jewish people that made it possible.

And I bring the congratulations, as well, and the unwavering support of a great champion of the State of Israel — and a life-long friend of her people — the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)

The President asked me to be here today to remember the day when the United States of America joined 32 other nations to support the creation of the State of Israel and to express our appreciation for all who support the Jewish people and the Jewish State of Israel to this day.

But most of all, the President sent me here with a simple message — it's the same message he delivered earlier this year when he visited the city of Jerusalem — that under our administration, America will always stand with Israel. (Applause.)

It's fitting that we gather today in this hall. This building is no stranger to history. Over nearly 80 years, it has hosted some of the world's greatest achievements in technology, art, and international diplomacy. But what happened here in 1947 was perhaps the most important historic event of all.

In the middle of the 20th century, the eyes of the world turned here, to Flushing Meadows, the first home of the United Nations.

That body was forged in the fading embers of the Second World War — a cataclysm that raised nearly as many questions as it answered, and none more significant than the fate suffered by the Jewish people.

The horrors of the Holocaust reminded the world that the safety and freedom of the Jewish people could not be secured without an independent Jewish state — sovereign, free, and capable of defending itself, by itself.

So in May 1947, less than two years after its inception, the United Nations formed the Special Commission on Palestine to propose paths forward for that region.

And on November 29, 1947 — 70 years ago tomorrow — the General Assembly gathered in this great hall and passed Resolution 181, calling for creation of the Jewish State of Israel. (Applause.)

Now to be clear: Israel needed no resolution to exist, for Israel's right to exist is self-evident and timeless.

Nor did that resolution create the State of Israel. For Israel was born of the sweat and the sacrifice of the Jewish pioneers who risked everything to reclaim their beloved lands, with — in those well remembered words — "with a plow in one hand and a rifle in another."

They turned the desert into a garden, scarcity into plenty, and an age-old dream into a reality. And their striving and their sacrifice laid the foundation for what took place in this hall 70 years ago.

And only six months later, the Jewish State of Israel was born — answering the ancient question first asked by the prophet Isaiah: "Can a country be born in one day, can a nation be born in a moment?"

It happened when on May 14, 1948, Israel declared "the natural right of Jewish people to be the masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign state." (Applause.)

While Israel was built by human hands, it's impossible not to see the hand of heaven leading its people, writing their history in the restoration of this ancient people to their land of their birth.

In fact, the God of Abraham told His people, "Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there I will gather you and bring you back to the land which your fathers possessed."

It was an ancient promise cherished by Americans since before our nation's founding, and it was a promise the Jewish people clung to through all the ages, through a 2,000-year exile, the longest of any people, anywhere. And they were rewarded for their faith.

As President Trump has said, "Israel is a testament to the unbreakable spirit of the Jewish people." (Applause.)

The United States of America was proud to support Resolution 181. We were proud to be the first nation in the world to recognize Israel's independence soon after. And we were proud to stand by Israel and the Jewish people ever since.

And under President Donald Trump, let me assure you of this, if the world knows nothing else, the world will know this: America stands with Israel. (Applause.)

America stands with Israel because her cause is our cause, her values are our values, and her fight is our fight. We stand with Israel because we believe in right over wrong, good over evil, freedom over tyranny.

We stand with Israel because the bond between our nations was knit before either one of them came to be.

President Trump dedicated our administration to strengthen that bond, to deepen the friendship between our nations. And he's demonstrated our unwavering commitment recently in his visit to Israel in May of this year.

For my part, I will reiterate the President's message and reaffirm our historic relationship when my family and I travel to Israel next month. (Applause.)

On my visit, it will be my great honor to address the members of the Knesset, to walk on the hallowed ground of that holy city that King David built more than 3,000 years ago, and to pay our respects and breathe a prayer at Yad Vashem.

In this season of reverence and grace, for millions around the globe, I'll also bring a message of respect and gratitude to the Jewish people for their strength of will, their strength of character, and for all that they have given humanity over the millennia.

But I'll also bring a message of resolve and commitment, to draw the United States and Israel even closer together, and to stand together in defense of all that we hold dear.

President Trump has already taken concrete steps to deepen the ties between our two nations. And nowhere is that more evident than in the very body whose vote we commemorate today, the United Nations.

More than 50 years ago, President John F. Kennedy warned that the United Nations must never be allowed to become, in his words, a "forum for invective." But today, sadly, with regard to Israel, too often it's become exactly that — a forum for invective in the form of anti-Semitism and hatred.

But with the leadership of our President and the efforts of our Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, the days of Israel-bashing at the United Nations are over. (Applause.)

Within the Human Rights Council and across the United Nations, Ambassador Haley has advanced reforms to put an end to the blatant bias and discrimination that was too often the reality in the recent past at the U.N.

President Trump has withdrawn the United States from one of the U.N.'s most anti-Israel bodies — UNESCO. (Applause.)

And beyond the walls of the United Nations, our President is working tirelessly to strengthen the historic friendship between the United States and Israel. I'm pleased to report today that America's support for Israel's security is at a record level today. (Applause.)

And while, for the past 20 years, Congress and successive administrations have expressed a willingness to move our embassy, as we speak, President Donald Trump is actively considering when and how to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. (Applause.)

And as the President has made clear, our administration is also committed to finally bringing peace to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As President Trump has said, in his words, "We want Israel to have peace." And in the recent months, we've made valuable progress toward achieving that noble goal.

And while compromise will be necessary, you can be assured President Donald Trump will never compromise the safety and security of the Jewish State of Israel. (Applause.)

The President has made clear that under this administration, America once again stands with our allies and stands up to our enemies. And our two nations stand together to confront any who dare to threaten us, most especially the menace of radical Islamic terror.

It does not matter what name it takes — Hezbollah, Hamas, al Qaeda, or any other — you can be assured that we will defeat the forces of terror so they can no longer threaten our people, our allies, or our way of life. (Applause.)

And under President Trump, America and Israel once again stand together in the face of the leading state sponsor of terrorism. President Trump has put Iran on notice.

Just last month, the President laid out a new strategy to oppose Iranian efforts to destabilize the region and jeopardize Israel's security.

As he has said, in his words, "The longer we ignore the threat, the more dangerous that threat becomes." That's why President Trump announced that we will not certify the Iran nuclear deal, and we will no longer tolerate Tehran's support for terrorism across the region and across the wider world. (Applause.)

As we speak, our administration is working closely with leaders in Congress to craft legislation that will overcome the Iran nuclear deal's most glaring failures. And while this process is still underway, today I can assure you, under President Trump, the United States of America will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. This is our solemn promise to you, to Israel, and to the world. (Applause.)

History attests that enmity toward the Jewish people often turns from evil thought to evil action. And over the years, there has hardly been a day when the people of Israel have lived without war, or the fear of war, or the grim reality of terror.

But no matter the challenges they face, or the slanders they endure, the Jewish people always persevere. For even in the darkness, the light of their faith, their strength, and their hope shines bright.

It was faith that led them to return to their ancient homeland. It was hope that spurred them to build a state to call their own. It was love — love for each other and a love for freedom — that has inspired the people of Israel to greatness since the hour of their birth.

Today we celebrate and we marvel at all that the people of Israel have accomplished. We remember those who sacrificed so much for Israel's existence and those brave men and women who stand sentry to this very day. We praise their resolve and their courage in this time of widening challenges and unknowable threats.

And while today we celebrate the vote that took place in the United Nations 70 years ago tomorrow, every day we celebrate the strength and vitality of the Jewish people, and the Jewish State of Israel.

Israel is an eternal testament to the unwavering fortitude of her people, to the unfathomable power of human freedom, and to the unending grace of God. And so today, we still trust in that promise. A promise in words heard millennia ago that I believe are true for her people and true for our people today as much as they were when they were first recorded, "For I know the plans I have for you," He spoke, "plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope, and a future."

70 years ago, in this very hall, we recognized that the future of the Jewish people lay in a state they could call their own. And today with faith in that future and in that hope, we recommit ourselves to stand with Israel to pursue a brighter future for both our peoples, our nations, and for the world.

And with the friendship and courage of our citizens, with the commitment of our leaders, and with the guidance of Providence, I say with confidence, the United States and Israel will meet that bright future together. (Applause.)

Thank you. May God continue to bless and protect the Jewish State of Israel and all her people and may God continue to bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

No Need For Forgiveness

By Steve Lipman

It began as an ordinary Shabbat morning. Shacharit services of a small Modern Orthodox congregation in the Greater New York area—it lacks its own building—were taking place in a living room earlier this year. A few dozen men and women were sitting on wooden chairs, separated by a makeshift mechitzah. At the front of the room, a member of the congregation, standing at a homemade shtender, was delivering a devar Torah on that morning's parashah about the enigmatic reactions of Moses and Aaron to the deaths of Aaron's sons in a Divine flash after offering an "alien fire."

Then the morning turned extraordinary.

While the congregant spoke about the difficulty in finding meaning in a child's death, a visitor sitting on an aisle seat in the men's section spoke up. "We lost a soldier." His son, he said, challenging the lay member's message about the difficulty in accepting death. The room turned silent. The visitor, Rabbi David Levy, a native of West Virginia, who had served as a pulpit rabbi in the United States and Canada before making aliyah in 1996, described the "clarity" of God's involvement in the death of his son, Noam Adin Rechter Levy, on a counter-terrorism mission in the West Bank in 2009.

The rabbi, dressed in typical Israeli style—white shirt, black pants, no tie or jacket—elaborated on the differences he had found between the ways that Israelis and North American Jews deal with death. In his experience, Israelis, especially those from the Sephardic community in northern Israel that he lives in—though Rabbi Levy himself is an "Ashkenazi shomer Shabbos" rabbi with ordination from Yeshiva University—are more comfortable with loss of life, he said. Most Israelis have experienced a relative's death in army service. They are more likely to accept death as a natural part of God's creation, Rabbi Levy said.

The culture of most North American Jews, including much of the Orthodox community, he said, struggles to find an individual's death as part of Heaven's plan.

The lay member at the shtender, shaken by the unexpected confrontation, deferred to Rabbi Levy, offering to end his devar Torah. At the rabbi's insistence, he quickly finished.

After services, the two strangers talked in the kitchen while the rest of the congregation shared a kiddush in the living room. They parted with a hug. Then I stepped in.

I asked Rabbi Levy to further explain the differences he saw between the Israeli approach to death and ours. He did. Then he offered more details about Noam's life and death.

Noam, twenty, had been home for a month-long visit before he fell in battle. He came out of his bedroom one morning and said he had heard the sound of wings fluttering during the night. That, according to Kabbalah, is a warning of death in a month's time. Then, thirty days later, Noam took an accidentally discharged bullet in his head from the rifle of his unit's deputy commanding officer who was struggling with a Palestinian terrorist. Noam died instantly.

I was stunned. I could not imagine living with that on my conscience. I thought about the commanding officer.

"How," I tentatively asked Rabbi Levy, "did the officer go on living without being wracked by guilt?"

"My wife and I adopted him," Rabbi Levy answered.


Not literally. But Rabbi Levy, and his then-wife—he has subsequently divorced and remarried—took Amit (the IDF never releases the full names of soldiers in such cases), into their home and into their hearts. They invited him to lead a Mishnah study session at the sheloshim ceremony at the end of the month of mourning. They invited him to meals. They lobbied for the army to retain Amit, advice the army rejected. He, and other members of Noam's unit, attend the annual azkarah ceremony in Noam's memory.

Is this not the ultimate act of forgiveness, the epitome of one of the themes of the High Holy Days?

"Not at all," Rabbi Levy said. Amit, who now works in the construction business, had nothing to apologize for; Amit had followed standard army protocol in pursuing the terrorist. "He had done nothing wrong. Our approach was completely and totally detached from forgiveness," the rabbi said. "There was absolutely no need for forgiveness. In fact," continued Rabbi Levy, "we are grateful that, since Hashem had already determined that Noam was being recalled for more important tasks, the recall was done via a soldier of the Israeli army and not by an enemy soldier, an automobile accident, or any of the other myriad ways that Hashem has to recall neshamot [souls]."

No bitterness, no blame, no hidden resentment?

The rabbi answered this question immediately. "Not at all."

I found this spirit as refreshing as it is rare. I asked Rabbi Levy if he would have any free time in the next few days to get together with me.

"No," he answered. He was returning to Israel to officiate at Amit's wedding.

Steve Lipman is a staff writer at the Jewish Week in New York and a frequent contributor to Jewish Action.

This article was featured in Jewish Action Fall 2017.

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